Jala Aldous reports on events during LSKC's annual trip to Malta.
Arriving at Gatwick airport, I felt a familiar surge of excitement rising in me. I couldn’t wait to get out of the plane, and step into the warm sunshine! Once everyone was there, and had gone through customs, we were finally ready to board the plane. There was so much I was looking forward to, including escaping a chilly English November for lovely warm Malta, surrounded by the blue Mediterranean.
The engines roared and we were jerked back in our seats. I saw the roads and buildings getting smaller and smaller beneath us until they’d all but disappeared. So began another of the annul trips to Malta.
We were greeted at the airport in Malta by Sensei Dario, head of the Maltese Karate. He came with his two daughters Lianne and Nicole, both very good at karate. They gave us these great thermos bottles. What’s more, on each of them it said ‘JKA Malta’.
Driving to the hotel in the minibus you couldn’t help noticing how different everything looked from home. The trees, plants, even the buildings. Our hotel, the ‘Waterfront’, was really nice, and posh too! The rooms were great, and there was a great view overlooking the harbour. We had a little time to relax and unpack, before changing into our gees ready for the first training session at the dojo.
The 15 minute warm up led by Sensei Dario was a combination of long, hard and exhausting. There was a part where you kicked, and your leg just got heavier and heavier until you could barely lift it. I was thinking to myself ‘if I’m tired now, I’ll never last the whole lesson’. Sensei Roy didn’t make it easy. We did a Kumite drill, which was really hard because you had to put one foot behind your leg. So you were attacking/blocking, whilst trying to keep you balance and not to hop around too much.
Fortunately, because this year the trip was in November rather than October, it was cooler and much more bearable to train in. It also meant that by the end of training there wasn’t too much sweat.
We had a late dinner at a restaurant which served; Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Mediterranean food. It was really nice! By the time we got back and flopped into bed I was shattered. It had been a very long day, 1:30am English time!
In the morning, we were driven to a beautiful beach with soft, gold sand, and sparkling seas. The view made the uncomfortably early start (considering the late night) feel worth it. The 3 hour beach training was great fun, but very tiring…for a change.
We ran around the beach to begin our warm up. Bare feet trying to avoid the seaweed and shells. Sensei Dario then gave us a more normal warm up. There were some awkward moments when we had to kneel in the sand and it went in our gees! There were lots of things we did, including kata, kumite, turning parts of the brown belt kata, Bassai Dai, into kumite. This is where someone would perform a certain attack, and you would then block and attack, using a section of Bassai Dai. It was very interesting to see how you would use parts of the kata to defend yourself in an attack. Most of us ended up falling in the sand on more than one occasion, which yes, led to more sand in gees! Another thing we did was collect some sand and seaweed in bags. Then we got into groups of three and one person would hold it, as the other two punched and kicked it. We all had to be careful not to kick sand into people’s faces. It was great fun! By the time the lesson ended we’d attacked the attention of lots of curious onlookers.
Running into the cool Mediterranean Sea afterwards, was welcome relief. We jumped over breaking waves, swam through great masses of seaweed, and dived down to the sea floor, which was littered with shells and stones.
We ate at a lovely beachside restaurant. Whilst we were waiting for the minibus some of us went to the loo, including Sensei Roy. But though every else returned, Sensei Roy didn’t. We got into the bus and waited and waited. I was reminded of a similar event last year, where Sensei Chris went missing. When Sensei Roy finally turned up he told us that he’d met a friend from London… what a strange coincidence!
When we returned to the hotel we had some chill out time. Kiran (my brother), our dad and I, went to the pool on the roof. Dad said he’d get in if we did, but after sticking feet into the icy water, we were really put off.
We wandered around the edge for a while, trying to pluck up courage, whilst Dad called us chickens. Saying ‘you two!’ in a fake- shocked voice and, ‘I can’t believe it’. Although I have to add, he hadn’t got off his deckchair since first plonking himself down! In the end, I bravely threw myself in the deep end, and emerged, gasping, struggling to swim properly because I couldn’t bear the freezing, freezing water on my face! Kiran followed me in. That shut Dad up! His promise was not fulfilled - he didn’t get in. So we said ‘so tell us who the coward is?’ and ‘how many lengths did you do again?’ We were not impressed.
The training we did that night wasn’t really Karate, although we did some similar blocks. Sensei Roy had some friends who were bodyguards, one of whom was keep you balance the bodyguard for a Prince in the royal family. They showed the class some simple, but efficient ways of stopping someone getting past you. We also practised in pairs, defending yourself against an attack, and how to respond. We were shown some of the types of weapons they might carry. There were lots of objects, pencil shaped, which could be pressed into a pressure point, if someone was doing an arm lock on you. We were showed where some of these were, and though Dad didn’t want me and Kiran trying it out, we watched as other groups practised. It looked painful. It was a very interesting lesson, but some techniques were a bit gruesome.
Another late night out for dinner. This time we ate in Valetta, the Capital of Malta. When we were in the minibus, Rose said something like ‘Sensei Dario you’re great, thank you’, which was followed by “Chrissie! I love you Chrissie! Marry me Chrissie” and then “Sensei Roy!”
“What?” he responded sharply
“I don’t like you!”
Once the large party was settled in the restaurant, we began to choose meals. Rose was having octopus for dinner, and sensei Roy admitted he’d lost his appetite for octopus since he’d seen one being killed. Still, when she got it, Rose made him try a bit… the immediate response was “I don’t like it!” Rose, wanting to take advantage of Sensei Roy’s weakness decided to play a little trick…
“OH MY GOD, IT MOVED!” yelled Rose pointing at her plate. In a flash Sensei spun round “WHAT MOVED!?!” and then he realised. Everyone found it very funny, apart from Sensei Roy who didn’t look pleased at all. Understandable.
It was a long, challenging day filled with excitement. But I was very happy to climb into bed.
We had a lovely breakfast, of which we were going to need every bite. Three hours of training awaited. It was going to be tough.
First, another full on warm up from Sensei Dario. Second a detailed, hard Kumite. And last we went over Kanku-Dai, the 65 moved brown belt kata. Everyone was exhausted by the end. Who wouldn’t be?
I humiliated myself at lunch by spilling my orange juice twice. As if once wasn’t embarrassing enough! Rose told me I had to include that detail. Hurmph. Well, it seemed fair, because she had a fair amount of publicity in the report.
It was the same restaurant we went to last time, when we’d gone night swimming. There were a lot of us eating there; everyone who come on the trip from our club and lots of people from the Maltese club.
After we’d eaten, Rose and Lianne went on either side of Sensei Roy, dangling their hair next to his head and then took photos. It actually looked like he was wearing some ridiculous wig! It was hilarious. Rose said the photo was priceless. If I’m correct, it was on the front of a Christmas card to Sensei, from the club.
Afterwards, we walked back along the harbour, staring at the ridiculously expensive, high class yachts, guessing how much they’d be. When we got back to the hotel, we went to the little ice-cream parlour. Everyone chose a few scoops, then sat in the lobby enjoying it. There were loads of different flavours to choose from. It was really delicious.
Me, Kiran, and Dad got a snack for tea, then spent the rest of the night in our room. Some of the others went to for a drink. I was later informed that when Sensei Sandra spilled her drink, she was called ‘Jala’. ‘At least’, I thought, ‘I’m not the only one’.
We got up quite early to catch our plane. Everyone tried to soak up as much as the sun as possible before coming back to England. We said ‘Goodbye’ and a BIG ‘thank you’ to Sensei Dario. We also said goodbye to sunny, warm Malta. When we were walking back through Gatwick, Sensei Roy saw more of his friends! We stepped outside into the chilly air. ‘Hello cold, grey England, we’re back!’
It had been another amazing trip. Challenging and tiring, yes, but also extremely fun. I would recommend it to anyone interested. You should go on the next trip, because it is a really great experience and everyone who went really enjoyed themselves! Just be prepared for some hard work…